One might think that the adventures of a boy and a dog might not be the most popular material to build a comic series on. But billions of blue blistering barnacles! Tintin and Snowy have proven otherwise, selling more than 200 million copies in 70 different languages. The series has proved to be so popular that there is an entire study named after the comic character – Tintinology, the study of Tintin!
Written by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi under the pen name Herge, Tintin first appeared in a Belgian newspaper’s children’s supplement on January 10, 1929. 85 years on, there have been animated series, live-action movies and animated movies about the boy reporter, culminating in a Steven Spielberg movie in 2011. While The Adventures of Tintin proved to be a blockbuster hit around the world, in Chennai, it received just a fair welcome – both by fans and critics. But comic book sales in city bookstores have an entirely different story to tell.
While sales had been just so-so for the past couple of years, it was the movie that really kickstarted the whole Tintin love affair all over again, according to bookstore managers. “We have seen a 30 to 40 per cent hike in sales of these comics. Tintin continues to remain popular and a favourite among kids, especially after the movie was released,” said Sivaraman Balakrishnan, head of marketing, Landmark. “The comics now fall in the ‘classic’ category, which again drove up demand,” he added.
Bookstore representatives say that they had a total sales of Rs 7.73 lakh in 2013 alone – nearly double the amount of from the previous years’ that is Rs 4 lakh. This is doubly significant, seeing there were no new copies of the comics out in bookstores for the better part of 2012. “Eurokids Chennai, who were importing the copies from Egmont Publishers and distributing them in the city were going to shut down. They wanted to shift operations. Penguin acquired rights to import and distribute the copies only in mid-2013. So, there weren’t many copies lying around in bookstores for sale,” revealed a representative from Penguin Publishers.
The publishing house reportedly imports anywhere from 8000 - 10,000 comics a year. That number is for a single book – in total, there are 24 Tintin comics, not counting the hard covers and the three-in-one sets. “Tintin is always in demand. Demand for comics like Asterisk and Obelisk is nothing compared to Tintin,” said the Penguin representative.
The main driving point is that the books are bought not only by the kids, but also adults and the elderly. “The other day, we had a grandfather asking about the books. He was a long time fan and he wanted to buy the new editions for his grandson. It was the cutest thing we’d seen in a long time,” said Karpagam, an employee of a leading bookstore in Alwarpet.